Here We Come A-Wassailing for String Quartet

Here We Come A-Wassailing for String Quartet – ‘Here We Come A-Wassailing’ is included on the Manor House String Quartet‘s first album of string quartet Christmas carols, entitled ‘I Saw Three Ships and other carols’ (you can hear an excerpt from it by following the link).

string quartet Christmas carols
The front cover of our popular first album of string quartet Christmas carols called ‘I Saw Three Ships and other carols’

In old English, the word ‘Wassail’ is a wish for good health. The practice of going ‘Wassailing’ at Christmas refers to the practice of singing from door to door, hopefully being rewarded by a glass of spiced punch. This Christmas carol seems to have originated in the North of England and first appears in published form in the 1871 Oxford Book of Carols.

It is a lively piece in 6/8 time which responded well to being treated with light spiccato bowing. The arrangement by violinist Vaughan Jones starts with the theme being stated in the first violin part, accompanied by close harmonies which give the impression of a merry dance. There is a small interlude before the melody has a second rendition with a very strong cello part in the bass. Later on, a sonorous melody is introduced with sprightly dotted rhythms which add a contrast to the main theme. The whole carol ends with the cello repeating the dotted rhythm with the violin playing a celebratory D over the top.

Vaughan particularly liked arranging this carol because it has such a traditional feel, yet the string quartet arrangement can make it sound quite classical at the same time – without taking away any of the cheerfulness!

You can also purchase the sheet music of Vaughan’s arrangement for the combinations of string quartet and string orchestra here:

Here We Come a Wassailing – Music Score